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Rouben Mamoulian

Drama with a side of romance primarily within a vaudevillian/burlesque setting that works quite well with a modest but decent enough tale that is enhanced by a solid central performance and directorial touches.

Right off the bat the vaudevillian world this is set in is quite nicely established - the dance troupe consists not of glamourous Busby Berkeley Babes but a more eclectic variety of ladies of mixed age, size and ability, their venues and audience rather base and ordinary. Talking of Busby Berkeley, early proceedings do have a couple of brief overhead shots that instantly remind of those which would become regarded as that great man's trademark (along with his marvellously extravagant dance routines) after his entrance into the industry a few years later.

Being a relatively early 'talkie' there are occasional issues with sound levels but overall technically that aspect is well enough managed and imo the tale is not overly harmed by them. That tale may not have a great deal of depth to it, with the set-up rather brief and exposition heavy, and on occasion drift a little too far into melodrama for my liking but is presented reasonably well on the whole with, aside from a little shakiness at the beginning of the Brooklyn Bridge scene, some nice cinematographic angles and movement to help keep it of interest.

In terms of acting some of the supporting cast are a little weak but the romance between April and Tony (Joan Peers and Henry Wadsworth) is quite nicely played whilst Helen Morgan holds proceedings together very nicely with her central portrayal of a character of which sadly her real life gave her all the insight she needed. That the film ends on the note it does lends it a level of poignancy that perhaps isn't fully deserved but nonetheless felt perfectly fitting to me.

Applause is quite gritty in its portrayal of both its central character and life within the lower echelons of vaudeville in general and for me the run-time certainly flew by but as enjoyable overall as it is the weaker acting along with a script that's no better than workmanlike do sadly drag it down to a